Nejat Society, April 17 2020:… Amir Vafa was born in France after his parents moved there from Iran to join Massoud Rajavi and his movement. They were then sent to the group’s Camp Ashraf in Iraq where thousands of members of the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (the MKO/ MEK/ PMOI/ the Cult of Rajavi) were sheltered by Saddam Hussein. But Amir could not maintain family ties in Camp Ashraf, together with about 500 kids he was separated from his parents and sent to European countries. Families In MEK Cult .
Families In MEK Cult
Scattered families in the MEK
Amir Vafa was born in France after his parents moved there from Iran to join Massoud Rajavi and his movement. They were then sent to the group’s Camp Ashraf in Iraq where thousands of members of the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (the MKO/ MEK/ PMOI/ the Cult of Rajavi) were sheltered by Saddam Hussein.
But Amir could not maintain family ties in Camp Ashraf, together with about 500 kids he was separated from his parents and sent to European countries. This action was taken “in the terms of the Second Ideological Revolution” as Antione Gessler writes in his book on the MEK, “Autopsy of an Ideological Drift”. “In the absence of family abroad, the children were sent to orphanages or special schools established by the Mojahedin in Germany and the Netherland”.
Gessler whose book was published in 2005 in France, has stated the testimonies of several parents who left their children behind in the hands of the MEK. Nadere Afshari was one of those eye witnesses who has in her turn written her memoirs of orphaned children in the MEK in Persian.
“Rajavi considers the family as an integral cell in his organization,” Afshari says. “He therefore feels free to intervene in the marital relations of members against their own will.”
The testimonies quoted in the book are clearly parallel to those that are put in the Intercept’s recent article on the MEK titled “Defectors Tell of Torture and Forced Sterilization in Militant Iranian Cult“. Authors of this greatly investigated article interviewed some former members of the group whose families were fell apart after they joined the MEK.
Batoul Soltani a well-known female defector of the MEK is one on those interviewed by Murtaza Hussain of the Intercept. “She had joined the MEK in the 1980s, following her husband, who had become enamored with the group and its leader,” according to the Intercept. “She had rationalized the decision as a way to keep her family together. But the group’s cultish nature became clear when they began living at Camp Ashraf in Iraq. Her relationship with her husband rapidly grew strained. They were both subject to what she described as “brainwashing” by the group’s senior cadres, who segregated them by rank and controlled their interactions with one another.”
The brainwashing process that coerced members to break off family ties, was concisely explained by Mitra Yusefi who was quoted by Antoine Gessler:
“When Rajavi after his divorce from BaniSadr’s daughter married his comrade’s wife, Maryam, we were shocked. My husband then took a strong position saying that you cannot take another’s wife. Two days later, though, they convinced us of the opposite. We were such fools…”
In 1991, MEK commanders took Sultani’s two young children, age 6 months and 5 years; the children were sent to live with MEK members in Holland and Sweden, according to Soltani’s testimonies stated for the Intercept. “It was a decision that she felt unable to oppose,” the Intercept clarifies the MEK nature. “In the insular world of the MEK, Massoud Rajavi had been effectively transformed into a subject of worship. Cadres were taught to both fear and love him, and they did. Many female members were expected to express this love physically.”
“Maryam Rajavi came to us as female members of the group many times and asked us why we haven’t demanded to see our leader in his bedroom,” Sultani said.
“There was a strong pressure” on MEK women to initiate sexual relationships with Rajavi, she said, “to show your commitment to the leader and the group.”
“Uprooted, far from their country, and cut off from their culture, these children became wanderers without identity”, Gessler suggests.
Since leaving the group, Batul Soltani has tried to rebuild her relationships with her children, who are now in their early 20s, only to find them angry and uncomprehending about the decades she spent away from them, based on the Intercept’s report.
“I try to tell them we were like robots, it was brainwashing. Anything Massoud Rajavi told us to do we did; we didn’t feel like we had any choice,” she told the Intercept. “They ask me why I never called, even on their birthdays. It is hard for them to understand any of this.”
Sadeghi is another defector of the MEK interviewed by the Intercept. Based on his testimony, he got only rare updates about his son Paul during the 10 years he spent in Ashraf. “Members were forbidden from discussing family or friends who were not MEK members. When he did ask about his son, they always told him that the boy was well, living in Toronto with Sadeghi’s ex-wife and receiving hundreds of dollars in support every month from the group.”
When Sadeghi was informed by a friend that his son was not in Canada at all and he had never left Iran and was being raised by Sadeghi’s parents there, Sadeghi decided to leave the group to find his son but he was faced with a deadly punishment by the group authorities.
“His commander called a group of other MEK members to detain him”, recited the Intercept. “Suddenly, about a dozen of Sadeghi’s comrades were grabbing him, trying to push and lift him into the back seat of a nearby Toyota pickup. As he resisted, he felt one of his fingers snap. The MEK members shoved him into the back of the truck, pinning him to the floor with their bodies. The truck started driving.
“You’re dead,” one of Sadeghi’s captors told him. “We are going to put you in the ground, and no one will ever know what happened to you.” Forced disappearances and solitary confinement were not uncommon at Camp Ashraf, and Sadeghi was sure he would be executed.”
GhorbanAli Hosseinnejad, Rajavi’s personal translator was also interviewed by the Intercept. The story of his scattered family is heartbreaking too. “In 1981, when the Iranian government declared the MEK a banned organization, Hosseinnejad and his family decided to flee Iran, ” according to the Intercept. “Zeynab was 4 years old but Mona was a newborn, too young to be exiled. Ali, Tayebeh [his wife], and Zeynab fled to Europe, leaving Mona with Hosseinnejad’s mother in Iran.”
As a teenager Zeynab was trained as an MEK fighter in Camp Ashraf. “But the psychological stress and isolation in the camp began to wear on Hosseinnejad,” the report reads. “Despite living in the same compound, he was allowed to see Zeynab just once a year. He hadn’t seen Mona, his younger daughter, since the day he fled Iran.”
In spite of the few cases on family rights abuses that were covered in books, articles and reports, cases of collapsed families are as many as the number of MEK former and current members. Nadereh Afshari truly briefed the entire MEK’s dark history of banning family life in the title of her book on the MEK: “Forbidden Love”.
By Mazda Parsi
– Gessler, Antoine, Autopsy of an Ideological Drift, Depot Legal, December, 2004, Paris, France.
– Hussain, Murtaza, & Cole, Matthew, Defectors Tell of Torture and Forced Sterilization in Militant Iranian Cult, The Intercept, March 22, 2020.
Families In MEK Cult
MEK Families Appeal To Intl. Human Right Bodies
Nejat Society, Tehran, Marhc 07 2020:… My name is Narges Beheshti. My brother Mostafa Beheshti is a member of the Mojahedin-E Khalq Organization (MEK, MKO, NCR, NLA . . .) who is trapped in a remote isolated camp of the group in Albania. MEK is a terrorist cult supported by the Albanian government. The cult brainwashes the members and forces them into terrorism and crimes. My other brother Morteza Beheshti was also a member of the MEK living in the cult’s camp Ashraf in Iraq who was killed through a conflict. Both brothers left Iran for more income and a better life, but were deceived into joining the group. Morteza was married and had a son. My mother passed away recently. MEK Families Appeal To Intl. Human Right Bodies
The Life of Camp Ashraf. Mojahedin-e Khalq – Victims of Many Masters
By Anne Khodabandeh (Singleton) and Massoud Khodabandeh
MEK Families Appeal To Intl. Human Right Bodies
Beheshti family’s letter to Intl. human right bodies
Nejat BloggersMarch 7, 2020
My name is Narges Beheshti. My brother Mostafa Beheshti is a member of the Mojahedin-E Khalq Organization (MEK, MKO, NCR, NLA . . .) who is trapped in a remote isolated camp of the group in Albania.
MEK is a terrorist cult supported by the Albanian government. The cult brainwashes the members and forces them into terrorism and crimes.
My other brother Morteza Beheshti was also a member of the MEK living in the cult’s camp Ashraf in Iraq who was killed through a conflict. Both brothers left Iran for more income and a better life, but were deceived into joining the group. Morteza was married and had a son.
My mother passed away recently. After Morteza was killed, her only wish was to talk to Mostafa. Unfortunately, this never happened until she died. The leaders of the MEK, just like other destructive cults, prevent the members to have access to the outside world, in particular to their friends and family.
What should I do if I want to contact my brother in Albania and learn about his situation? The Albanian government, in order to appease the MEK, does not let the families to travel to Albania. Even if the families be able to enter the country, they have no chance to see their loved ones and they would be harassed by the Police and authorities.
I firmly urge you to show me a way to persuade the MEK leaders as well as the Albanian authorities to let the members contact their relatives. I am eagerly waiting for your response and thank you in advance for your efforts.
Narges Beheshti, Tehran, Iran
The Beheshtis speak to their beloved Milad taken as a hostage in the MEK camp in Albania:
MEK Families Appeal To Intl. Human Right Bodies
MEK Base In Albania – They Gave Us a Tour
Patrick Kingsley, The New York Times, February 16 2020:… I wasn’t shown the computer suites, which defectors had portrayed as a kind of troll farm: junior members using multiple accounts on Facebook and Twitter, typing messages that criticize the Iranian government, lionize the M.E.K. leadership and promote its paid lobbyists. When Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Bolton made public speeches in recent years, members were ordered “to take a particular line and tweet it 10 times from different accounts,” said Mr. Mohammadian, the former member. I was taken to an empty gym, and then to a small cafeteria. It was already close to midnight, but a small group of women had been told to wait up for me. MEK Base In Albania – They Gave Us a Tour
MEK Base In Albania – They Gave Us a Tour
Highly Secretive Iranian Rebels Are Holed Up in Albania. They Gave Us a Tour.
Depending on whom you ask, the People’s Jihadists are Iran’s government-in-waiting or a duplicitous terrorist cult that forbids sexual thoughts. What are they doing in Albania?
MANEZ, Albania — In a valley in the Albanian countryside, a group of celibate Iranian dissidents have built a vast and tightly guarded barracks that few outsiders have ever entered.
Depending on whom you ask, the group, the Mujahedeen Khalq, or People’s Jihadists, are either Iran’s replacement government-in-waiting or a duplicitous terrorist cult. Journalists are rarely allowed inside the camp to judge for themselves, and are sometimes rebuffed by force.
But after President Trump’s decision to assassinate Qassim Suleimani, a powerful Iranian general, it seemed worth trying again. Would a group that claims to want a democratic, secular Iran allow a reporter inside their camp?
The group’s loudest allies include Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, and John R. Bolton, his former National Security Adviser. Both have received tens of thousands of dollars for speaking at the group’s conferences, where these influential Americans describe the People’s Jihadists as Iran’s most legitimate opposition.
Initially, the group ignored several requests for access. So less in hope than desperation, I drove to its base and presented my credentials to a guard.
Three hours later, shortly before sunset, I got a call. To my surprise, I was being allowed inside. So began a series of interviews, propaganda sessions and tours that lasted until 1:30 a.m. A New York Times photographer was admitted several days later.
The group perhaps hoped to correct the impression left by previous journalistic encounters. A visit in 2003 by a Times reporter to the group’s former base in Iraq ended badly after her subjects spoke from a rehearsed script, and she was barred from talking to people in private.
This time around, most residents were off limits, but officials did allow private interviews with several members.
At my request, these included Somayeh Mohammadi, 39, whose family has argued for nearly two decades that she is being held against her will.
“This is my choice,” said Ms. Mohammedi, after her commanders left the room. “If I want to leave, I can leave.”
While the group may not have tried to hide Ms. Mohammedi, there were several odd and telling moments when secrets were tightly held.
In particular, senior officials stumbled when asked about the whereabouts of the group’s nominal leader, Massoud Rajavi, who vanished in 2003.
“Where is he?” said Ali Safavi, the group’s main representative in Washington. “Well, we can’t talk about that, that’s … ”
He trailed off, staring at his feet.
Is he still alive? Is he in Albania?
“We can’t talk about it,” Mr. Safavi replied, after several seconds of silence.
Founded in 1965 to oppose the Shah of Iran, the group later rejected the theocracy that replaced him.
Immediately following the revolution, the group attracted significant public support and emerged as a leading source of opposition to the new theocratic regime, according to Professor Ervand Abrahamian, a historian of the group.
The group claims it still attracts significant support, but Mr. Abrahamian said its popularity plummeted after becoming more violent in the early 1980s.
“When you talk to people who lived through the revolution, and you mention the name ‘Mujahedeen’, they shudder,” said Mr. Abrahamian.
By the 1980s, the group’s ideology had begun to center on Mr. Rajavi and his wife, Maryam.
To prove their devotion to the Rajavis, members were told to divorce their spouses and renounce romance.
At the time, the group was based in Iraq, under the protection of Saddam Hussein.
Its destiny changed after the American-led invasion of Iraq. After an initial standoff, the group, also known as the M.E.K., gave up its weapons. Despite having been listed by America as a terrorist organization in 1997, it was placed under American protection.
But in 2009, American troops ceded responsibility for the M.E.K. to the Iraqi government. Led by politicians sympathetic to Iran, the Iraqi authorities tacitly allowed Iran-allied militias to attack the group.
American and United Nations diplomats began searching for a safer country to house the group. After intensive lobbying by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, the American government also removed them from a list of terrorist organizations in 2012.
A year later, they were finally welcomed by Albania. The Albanian government hoped its hospitality would curry favor with Washington, according to the foreign minister between 2013 and 2019, Ditmir Bushati.
The group purchased several fields in a valley 15 miles west of Tirana, the capital, and built a camp there.
When I visited, the base seemed oddly empty. The group claims it houses about 2,500 members. But across the two days, we saw no more than 200.
The others seemed to have been sequestered away — or to have left the group altogether.
Dozens of former members now live independently in Albania. I met 10 of them, who each described being brainwashed into a life of celibacy.
Inside the group, they said romantic relationships and sexual thoughts were banned, contact with family highly restricted, and friendships discouraged.
All recounted being forced to participate in self-criticism rituals, whereby members would confess to their commanders any sexual or disloyal thoughts they had.
“Little by little, you are broken,” said Abdulrahman Mohammadian, 60, who joined the group in 1988 and left in 2016. “You forget yourself and you change your personality. You only obey rules. You are not yourself. You are just a machine.”
The group strongly denied the accusations and portrays many of its critics, including Mr. Mohammadian, as Iranian spies.
I was taken on a three-hour tour of a museum about the M.E.K.’s history, where the exhibits did not mention Saddam Hussein or forced celibacy. Instead, they focused on the group’s persecution.
Some rooms had been turned into replica torture chambers, to explain how Iranian jailers punished and interrogated supporters during the 1980s.
In each room, members waited in silence for me. These turned out to be survivors of the torture — ready to personally explain each method of repression.
One survivor, Raheem Moussavi, stood beside a bloodied mannequin and slowly detailed the four different techniques the Iranian torturers used to beat him. The process culminated in being whipped by a metallic cat-o’-nine tails.
Searching for influence, the group has turned increasingly to the internet.
I was shown a recording studio, where two musicians compose anti-regime songs and music videos for release on Iranian social media.
I wasn’t shown the computer suites, which defectors had portrayed as a kind of troll farm: junior members using multiple accounts on Facebook and Twitter, typing messages that criticize the Iranian government, lionize the M.E.K. leadership and promote its paid lobbyists.
When Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Bolton made public speeches in recent years, members were ordered “to take a particular line and tweet it 10 times from different accounts,” said Mr. Mohammadian, the former member.
I was taken to an empty gym, and then to a small cafeteria. It was already close to midnight, but a small group of women had been told to wait up for me.
They scoffed at the idea of the troll farm. As for the limits on their private lives, they said such discipline was necessary when battling as cruel an adversary as the government of Iran.
“You can’t have a personal life,” said Shiva Zahedi, “when you’re struggling for a cause.”
After I left, the group put me in touch with three former American military officers who had helped guard an M.E.K. camp in Iraq after the American invasion.
Each spoke glowingly about the M.E.K., and said its members had been free to leave since the American military began protecting it in 2003.
American officers had access to every area of the Iraqi base, and found no prison cells or torture facilities, said Brig. Gen. David Phillips, who commanded the military policemen guarding the camp in 2003 and 2004.
“I wanted to find weapons, I wanted to find people tied to beds,” General Phillips said. “We never found it.”
But other records and witnesses gave a more complex account.
Capt. Matthew Woodside, a former naval reservist who oversaw American policy at the Iraqi camp between 2004 and 2005, was not one of those whom the M.E.K. suggested I contact.
He said that in reality American troops did not have regular access to camp buildings or to group members whose relatives said they were held by force.
The M.E.K. leadership tended to let members meet American officials and relatives only after a delay of several days, Captain Woodside said.
“They fight for every single one of them,” he said.
It became so hard for some members, particularly women, to flee that two of them ended up trying to escape in a delivery truck, he recalled.
“I find that organization absolutely repulsive,” Captain Woodside said. “I am astounded that they’re in Albania.”
Besar Likmeta contributed reporting.
MEK Base In Albania – They Gave Us a Tour